Instead of erasing all the gory memories from the people’s collective conscience, Ahmad Salim has put together in one volume some analytical essays regarding the dismemberment of East Pakistan
We Owe an Apology to Bangladesh
Edited by Ahmad Salim
Published by Shahitya Prakash 87 Purana
Paltan Line, Dhaka
Price 500 BDT
The chilling December reminds us of those blood-stained days when a powerful minority decided to teach a ‘lesson’ to the hapless majority whose only crime was the demand of equal rights. The minority was in a position to dictate terms to the majority as it was in cohorts with the civil and military establishment. The year was 1971 when, in the month of December, a reign of terror was let loose on the Bengalis which later led to the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Over all these years, we have decided to erase all the gory memories from our collective conscience by twisting the historical narrative as per our whims. We found a simple solution by branding the Bengalis as renegades who broke Pakistan with the collaboration of India. Noted writer and archivist Ahmad Salim has compiled some informative and analytical essays regarding the tragedy of 1971. He was incarcerated when he wrote rebellious Punjabi poems condemning the men in khaki for perpetrating a ruthless pogrom on the Bengalis. “We Owe an Apology to Bangladesh” is the apt title of the book which consists of essays of a few men of high integrity like I. A. Rehman, Dr Tariq Rahman, Hafizur Rehman, Ahmad Salim, Zahid Hussain and others.
Senior journalist Zahid Hussain’s piece is based on the findings of Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report which sets the record straight by busting many myths. He quotes Brig. Iqbalur Rehman, an eyewitness of the 1971 war, “During his visit to formations in East Pakistan General Gul Hasan used to ask the soldiers that how many Bengalis have you shot”. The Brigadier uttered these words before the Hamoodur Rehman Commission. The Commission recommended trial of ‘Tiger Niazi’ but he was honourably retired and later joined the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan.
Dr Tariq Rahman is spot on when he says that Pakistan should apologise to the people of Bangladesh for all the people killed on the night of March 25; all the people hunted down as rebels till December 16 and those killed in the war. He further suggests that “as a gesture of reconciliation the Government of Bangladesh too should aplologize to the families of West Pakistanis killed either for revenge or during hostilities”.
Ahmad Salim’s essay shows how Mujibur Rehman stood firm in the wake of the worst days of his life when he was picked up from his residence on the night of March 25, 1971. People advised him to go into hiding but he refused to go underground. He decided to face the circumstances come what may. “I must spare the people. If I am not here at my residence, Yahya Khan will burn Dhaka in his effort to find me”, Mujibur Rehman replied to his workers who wanted him to flee. Gen. Tikka Khan, while replying to a question of a journalist, said that he knew that a “leader like Mujib would not desert his people and he would have searched for him in Dhaka and would not have left a single house unsearched”. Ahmad Salim quotes the legendary reporter Anthony Mascarenhas who used to work for the Morning News Karachi before freelancing for The Sunday Times. His book “The Rape of Bangladesh” is considered to be one of the most authentic documents on the tragedy of 1971 as he saw the brutality of army with his own eyes. Ahmad Salim recounts also that Yahya Khan was bent upon killing or executing Mujibur Rehman but it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who strongly opposed any such dastardly move.
Asif Farrukhi traces the impact of the Dhaka tragedy on our literature. Brilliantly written, his essay is a sheer treat to read. Ahmad Salim enlightens us about the stance of our literati in those tumultuous days of 1971. On March 27, 1971, the city of Lahore was in gala due to the Urs of Madhu Lal Hussain. Ahmad Salim along with his friends Shafqat Tanvir Mirza and Prof Manzoor Ahmad decided to walk barefoot and with bowed head towards the shrine of Madhu Lal Hussain as a mark of solidarity with the Bengali brethren. Apart from these sensitive intellectuals, the majority endorsed the army crackdown on the Bengalis.
This article was originally published at: The News
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.